WikiLeaks: storm in a teacup
Aweak and unpopular presidency suits the military better. Why would the military create a situation in which Mian Nawaz Sharif - with greater popularity - would take the reins in his hands and start implementing the Kerry-Lugar Bill's conditions on the military?
Despite all the noise and sensational headlines, WikiLeaks has not added much to what we already knew. The correspondence between Washington and US diplomats in Islamabad shows the wide set of US contacts with Pakistan's leading institutions and personalities. But there is nothing new, unique or revealing because the US ambassador and other top officials meet Pakistan's top civilian and military managers publicly. If these leaks really show anything, it is the incapability of the US influence in determining the political discourse in Pakistan and elsewhere. Furthermore, the leaks have also shown that Pakistan's ruling elite has a certain discipline in the foreign policy arena: it seems that the nature of Pakistan's relationship with China and many other countries has not been shared with the Americans.
We all know that the US was so connected to General Pervez Musharraf that it could not see anything beyond him. Saudi Arabia also preferred him to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. However, despite their strong desire, the US could not stop the political process triggered through the movement for the restoration of an independent judiciary. After a prolonged wavering the US had to accept the return of Pakistan's top exiled leaders, Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif.
The US State Department had been shunning Benazir Bhutto, forcing her to take help from every Tom, Dick, and Harry to talk to the Americans. It was the radicalisation of the lawyers' movement and the fear of widespread anarchy that forced the US to interject mainstream political parties back into the democratic process. It is true that the US had enough influence to do so, but the basic dynamics of change were internal rather than external. Therefore, analysts, political pundits and even politicians who look toward Washington for power have an exaggerated view of US influence in Pakistan.
Apparently, the US did not want Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry reinstated. The then US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, tried to convey such a message to Mian Nawaz Sharif and did her best to convince him to be content with restoration of some high court judges only. Mian Nawaz Sharif stood his ground and insisted that without the reinstatement of the chief justice, there is no meaning of restoration of the deposed judiciary. And who had the last laugh, Mian Nawaz Sharif or Anne Patterson?
At that critical juncture the US made a big mistake by advising the Zardari-Gilani government to resist the restoration of the judiciary. Ultimately, the restoration of the judiciary could not be stopped but in the process the PPP lost its credibility with the people. The whole episode of the long march for the restoration of the judiciary left the Zardari-led PPP in a much weaker position in comparison to Mian Nawaz Sharif and the army chief, General Kayani.
It has not been revealed in WikiLeaks how General Kayani played the pivotal role at the last moment when the police were suddenly pulled out from stopping the long march. But one thing is clear - the outcome was determined by internal dynamics, not at all by the US. If General Kayani put his foot down on the judges' restoration, it shows that, contrary to common perception, Pakistani institutions look for their own and/or national interest - right or wrong - and do not take dictation.
The military's involvement in Pakistani politics can never be ruled out but it appears that after the Zardari-Gilani partnership was fatally wounded by the long march, the political dynamics quickly changed. From that point on, the military's involvement in foreign policy and security issues started creeping back to the Musharraf era status quo.
The Kerry-Lugar Bill further provided the impetus for the military to reassert its independence, rather supremacy, over the civilian institutions. It may be true that General Kayani was informed about the bill before its passage and he had no objections as was claimed by many US senators. It is possible that the corp commanders and other military generals pressured General Kayani to take a stand against Kerry-Lugar Bill.